Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, likes to start at the beginning when talking about the future of technology and innovation. By the beginning he means both the beginning of Salesforce.com, the subscription-based software as a service (SaaS) business he started to disrupt the enterprise software industry and, most importantly, the beginner’s mind.
On March 8, 1999 in a Montgomery Street apartment in the shadow of San Francisco’s Coit Tower, Benioff and his co-founders started what would become the fastest growing enterprise software company of all time.
In that fog-shrouded apartment the two founders architected principles that still serve as a blueprint for the company’s success: Build a new technology model around cloud computing, launch a new business model based on subscriptions and champion a new philanthropic model by donating 1% of the company’s time and profit to non-profits. Nearly 20 years later Salesforce is synonymous with innovation and disruption across all three of those principles.
Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, speaking at Gartner Symposium ITxpo. In a wide ranging discussion with Michael Maoz, VP and Distinguished Analyst and Yefim Natis, VP and Gartner Fellow in the Mastermind Interview during Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2017 in Orlando, Florida, the reality of this milestone was striking.
Doesn’t celebrating nearly 20 years in the technology sector and becoming the established leader in its space make Salesforce an incumbent ripe for disruption?
Are the start-up disruptors amassing on the horizon in a bid to disrupt the ultimate disrupter?
Benioff didn’t seem concerned.
Cultivate a beginner’s mind
“That’s the whole point of technology,” Benioff said. We need to constantly be open to new ideas and approaches, such as artificial intelligence (AI), and be willing to challenge assumptions. “AI is a big deal,” he said. The world is changing and changing fast.
Benioff explained the beginner’s mind as a mindfulness practice of focusing on the here and the now to view our inner and outer world with fresh, unencumbered eyes.“If you want to be a great innovator you have to cultivate a beginner’s mind,” said Benioff.
“Mindfulness is an important part of innovation,” said Benioff. “Leaders need to listen (and receive) more.”